Harnessing the Power of Emotions
When we understand how our emotions work — and how they can trick us for both good and bad outcomes — we can turn them into superpowers. Hear from researchers and practitioners who offer intriguing ways to think about emotions. They suggest ways to better navigate our inner lives and relationships with those around us.
Whether it’s with a partner, family member, therapist, or boss, talking about emotions is never easy. But why is it so hard? Because it makes us feel incredibly vulnerable and weak, says psychotherapist and bestselling author Lori Gottlieb — like we don’t have a handle on our lives. “But talking about our feelings is a sign of strength,” she says. It shows that you value your emotional well-being and know that it impacts every other aspect of your life.
Big IdeaFollow your envy; it tells you what you want. Our emotions are like GPS. They help to guide us... if you don’t use them to guide you, then you’re working with a glitchy GPS.Lori Gottlieb
To get your emotions to work for you, you must be willing to open up about them. After all, there’s a reason we have them. From an evolutionary perspective, says psychology professor Jessica Tracy, humans evolved to have emotions because they are functional and adaptive — they help us survive and pass on our genes. Emotions that are most stigmatized, like shame and envy, can actually be the most useful in understanding how we relate to ourselves and the people around us.
The person you talk to the most over your lifetime isn’t your partner, best friend, or sibling — it’s you. We are horrible to ourselves, says Lori Gottlieb. We’re our own worst critics, and often that inner voice sounds like a bully. So how do we become more grounded in reality, and move away from self-criticism toward constructive self-reflection? Watch Lori Gottlieb and psychologist Guy Winch discuss how to have a better relationship with the voice inside your head:
Big IdeaOur mind is a very powerful tool, but it requires adult supervision.Guy Winch
When we experience an emotional wound, we really just want one thing, says Guy Winch. We want to have our emotions validated and we want to feel understood. So the next time you’re late meeting a friend or forget an anniversary, start with validating your friend or partner’s feelings. Before the excuses, explanations, and “buts,” says Winch, you must acknowledge their emotions. Not only is this cathartic for them, it allows you to offer your side of the story.
Did you know?
How we navigate our emotions in relation to others is central to our happiness and the health of our relationships. We grow in connection, Lori Gottlieb says. “Fundamentally we want to love and be loved.” Evolutionarily, there’s a reason we crave close connection and belonging — it’s key to our survival, explains Jessica Tracy. Being able to connect with others through our emotions allows for the development of tight-knit communities that have a better chance of weathering whatever life throws their way.
Learning how to better empathize with others, and yourself, is crucial to building strong relationships. But there’s a difference between the kinds of empathy and compassion we can offer and it’s important to understand that distinction. Watch Lori Gottlieb explain how she classifies “idiot” compassion and “wise” compassion:
Wise compassion is giving insightful feedback, and it’s important to know when and how much wise compassion to give, says Gottlieb. In the immediate aftermath of an emotional event, most people don’t want wise compassion — they just want to be heard and understood. Understanding somebody doesn’t mean agreeing with them, she explains, but when an emotional injury is raw, she suggests listening without trying to fix the problem. As time goes by, you can dole out greater amounts of advice and insight.